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3 ways to overcome an information management plateau

The term "information management" might sound interchangeable with "data management," but it's not — information is one step closer to being usable. Information is "organized data," which means it's eminently more valuable to your company or organization than raw data from any analytics dashboard.

Information management requires a bit more finesse and intuition than data gathering. Your organization takes in a vast amount of data, and it's thanks to your information management efforts, both the automated and human variety, that you can turn that data into meaningful, actionable information.

Information management might include insights gathered from:

  • Management systems for web content
  • Digital assets and web presence analytics
  • Work document repositories
  • Customer and client records managers
  • Manufacturing process and shop floor workflow data gathering

Information — and the skills required to manage and put it to work — are among any organization's most important assets and problem-solving tools. But it can be easy to lose focus on the purpose behind the information or forget what problem you're trying to solve, or to underestimate the importance of information management in the first place.

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A sample of JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) computer code is displayed on a monitor for a photograph in Tiskilwa, Illinois, U.S., on Wednesday, July 12, 2017. JSON is a lightweight data-interchange format. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

If your information management has hit a plateau, here are some thoughts on how to overcome it.

1. Use Computer-Based Decision Support Systems

As we've alluded, information management exists someplace near the border of human intuition and the raw accumulation of data. But it'll likely always fall on managers to make the important calls, which means they're always going to need not just reliable streams of information to manage but also an intuitive, convenient and easy-to-follow computer system to help them use that information to its greatest potential.

There are several things to look for in decision support systems and several types, too:

  • Retrieval-only support systems, such as you'd find on shop floors analyzing workflows and throughput.
  • Retrieval and analysis, like you'll find on trading floors using information flooding in to make savvy buying and selling decisions, sometimes in a split-second.
  • Sales information systems, which can be used by small and large businesses to watch over multiple SKUs and revenue streams in real-time, analyze ongoing supply and demand and generate insights for marketing and manufacturing efforts.

The decision support systems on the market today aren't necessarily true automation — they still need hands at the tiller. However, they do help information managers and planners surround themselves with as much rich, contextual information as possible. As a result, they can plot a sensible course and, in some fields and with some difficult supply chains — as we're seeing currently with the sustained shortage of raw materials needed for the booming electronics industry — stay several steps ahead of the competition.

2. Automate Where You Can and Focus on Solving Real Problems

Managers of all kinds deal with information overload in their everyday. In fact, among surveys of call center managers, there seem to be so many metrics and so many data points to consider that a plurality of managers actively worry about missing something critical amidst all the noise.

The point of gathering data and engaging in information management is never to overwhelm yourself or provide data for data's sake — it's to get the information you need to solve real, practical problems.

One of those problems might be to reduce risk, in which case you might look at data concerning how your employees or customers are using (or not using) security features. Another problem might be the automatic revocation of passwords and credentials when employees leave your service. Other issues might involve anticipated narrower profit margins in the future that you need to adapt to now, or a need for greater transparency and data mobility on account of new regulations or practices.

Automation and wise information management converge even further when you consider lean and just-in-time manufacturing. With resource planning and environmental stewardship top of mind for many companies and business professionals, fabricating only the inventory we need and nothing we don't is increasingly in the purview of automated facility management systems coupled with savvy information managers.

3. Turn a Resources or Skills Shortage Into an Opportunity

As a greater variety of organizations turn to information management to get their work done, we're also seeing data-savvy professionals and IT specialists move into a place of even greater demand in the workforce. One very possible information management plateau your organization might experience in time is a resources or skills shortage. But this, too, is an opportunity in disguise.

Every one of the departments within your organization interacts with and manages data and information to operate on a daily basis — so skill set development in this area should be considered a foundational requirement for everybody.

You can create motivation for your employees to engage in self-directed learning and using resource libraries by instituting an ongoing learning platform, for example, or building a tuition reimbursement program if you have folks on board who want to sharpen their information management skills or pursue the next credential associated with information systems and organizational management.

The bottom line of all of these points is that information management empowers you — and your organization — to make more confident decisions. Sometimes you can lean on computer systems to help deliver these insights, but in other cases, you still need human skills and intuition very much in the mix.

One way or another though, your success in your chosen field requires a sharp eye for the value of information as well as an analytical and future-focused nature to use it to your advantage.

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